A Deputy Superintendent of Jammu and Kashmir Police was stripped and brutally assaulted before one from a mob killed him with a rod on the premises of the Jamia Masjid in Srinagar around midnight Thursday where the faithful had gathered for Shab-e-Qadr (Night of Power).
Mohammad Ayub Pandit’s body was then dragged out of the premises and dumped in a drain. He was identified by his son and cousin around 7 am Friday. He lived in Nowpora, barely a kilometre from the Jamia Masjid. The mob pounced on him after some people there identified him as a police officer.
As outrage mounted and the incident drew all-round condemnation, police began a hunt for the assailants. Director General of Police S P Vaid said two persons had been arrested and a third identified. Read: Two days ago, daughter returned home from Bangladesh for Eid. Click here.
Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, who attended a wreath-laying ceremony for the slain Dy SP, said there could not have been a more “shameful incident” on Shab-e-Qadr than the killing of an officer posted there for the security of people.
“There is no bigger, shameful incident than this. And more importantly, this Dy SP thought that this is his own area. On this auspicious day, he had told security guards to go home and perform night-long prayers. There could be no bigger murder of trust than this,” she said.
“They (police) are extremely brave and courageous. They are exercising extreme restraint considering the fact that they are dealing with their own people… The day their tolerance wanes, I think it will become extremely difficult. How long will this continue? Some days before, a Station House Officer and his five men were killed. He had not gone there out of his own will. He was there to protect lives of people,” she said.
Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who turned up at the Jamia Masjid some 20 minutes after the incident, called it a “brutal act… inhuman”. He said he was not present in the mosque at the time of the incident. “I reached the mosque at 12.15 am while the incident happened before that.”
“Jamia Masjid has always been a centre of spiritual and moral upliftment. This is most unfortunate. I am deeply disturbed by this brutal act. Mob violence and public lynching is outside the parameters of our values and religion,” he said.
The Mirwaiz blamed “the violence that the state has wreaked on us” as “largely responsible for this kind of brutalisation”.
“It is very important and imperative for us that we do not allow our social fabric to be brutalised and keep our basic values intact. We cannot allow state brutality to which we are subject each day… snatch our humanity and values. What will be the difference between them and us Such incidents are detrimental for our movement,” he said.
National Conference leader and former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah took to Twitter to condemn the killing: “His death is a tragedy & the manner of his death a travesty. May the people who lynched Dy SP Pandith burn in hell for their sins. He was a Dy SP in the Security Wing of J&K Police & I understand he was there on security duty for access control at Jamia Masjid.”
People present at the Jamia Masjid at the time of the incident said it was around midnight that Pandit, who was in plain clothes, was identified by some people near the entrance of Jamia Masjid and they began beating him.
“The masked youth who were beating the officer were shouting that he is a police officer, that they (police) are killing our youth, so they need to be taught a lesson. He was dragged inside the compound of the Jamia Masjid,’’ an eyewitness said, adding that the crowd had stripped him.
“Inside the compound, where he was being beaten, the officer tried to run away. He took out his pistol and fired a few shots which injured two persons. Some young men overpowered him and pushed him to the ground. Then someone pierced his body with an iron rod,” the eyewitness said.
“He died in the compound. Later, his body was dragged out and pushed into a drain at Nowhatta.’’ Another eyewitness said some people tried to save the officer but they were pushed away by the assailants. “Once the officer fired from his pistol, the mob ire increased.”
DGP Vaid said the Dy SP was on duty to protect people in the mosque and “prevent subversive elements from disturbing the situation”.
“But among them, there were some people who lynched him. This is an unfortunate incident. There is hardly any difference between humanity and barbarity.”
“As per initial information, the officer, after examining access control inside the mosque, was coming out when some subversive elements, who were raising slogans, caught hold of him and started beating him. The officer was lynched.”
Vaid said thousands of people come to the mosque to offer prayers on the auspicious day. Securitymen are deployed there to protect the people. “We have arrested two persons and identified a third. Every person involved in the lynching of the police officer will have to face the law,” he said.